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'An Oversimplification of Her Beauty' ***

An engaging, indulgent look at a filmmaker's obsession

Michael Phillips

June 22, 2013

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In 2006 filmmaker, artist and musician Terence Nance made a dreamy, yearning short film while at New York University titled "How Would U Feel?" in which he plays himself, or a version of himself, puzzling over his feelings for his latest and maybe deepest romantic attachment.

Namik Minter is the woman, friend and beauty in question. Expanding that earlier short, Nance has gone back to this central, vexing relationship in the stimulating debut feature "An Oversimplification of Her Beauty," now in a weeklong run at Facets.

Nance begins near the end, with Minter canceling a planned get-together, leaving the restlessly self-analyzing filmmaker alone with the homemade Japanese bed he'd planned on breaking in that night. With the free-form craziness of a densely packed graphic novel, "Beauty" combines live action, copious voice-overs and a generous (overgenerous, probably) amount of animation. But the sensibility is lively. You know you're in good, creative hands here when Nance, taking a hard look at his own tendency toward emotional unavailability and "faux ambivalence" in relationships, warns himself about "the void between your capacity to love and your actual skill set in this regard."

An easygoing time-management slob, perpetually late and determined to woo Minter with his art, Nance alludes to Sept. 11, 2001, and its psychic fallout. A lot of "Beauty" is simply a chronicle of a man in his 20s, simultaneously running after and away from women, trying to make sense of his own romantic notions of self. Parts of the film feel like therapy after the 50-minute hour's up.

At its best, though, "Beauty" floats on its own playful visual invention and its ardent interest in the heart — the "organism without reason."

mjphillips@tribune.com

Twitter @phillipstribune

No MPAA rating

Running time: 1:35

Opens: Through Thursday at Facets, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. 773-281-4114 or

facets.org